Marketing your business during a pandemic.

A photo of lines and dots that simulate a communication network with the words "COVID-19: The First Global Pandemic of the Information Age."

Have you seen the Netflix overnight sensation, Tiger King? One of the biggest trends of the COVID-19 quarantine is the increased consumption of TV programs from streaming services. Time spent on streaming increased by 34% in the first two weeks of March, according to Nielsen, and Tiger King was viewed by more than 34 million people in its first ten days.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way businesses operate, as well as consumer habits. And while marketing has always been a game of chasing trends, the challenge is even greater with the decline in media share and the increase in digital marketing.

For over a decade, print media has been seeing a mounting decline in advertising revenue, while TV and radio advertising revenues had been holding relatively steady. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic, broadcasters have experienced a dramatic drop in advertising revenue, causing significant layoffs of long-time radio and TV personalities in most markets across the country.

So, how do you market to attract new customers and keep existing customers satisfied? Two words that will become increasingly important to customers is CONVENIENCE and SAFETY.

With both digital and traditional media fighting for advertising dollars, it is difficult to determine the most effective medium for attracting new customers.

According to a custom Nielsen study conducted March 20-22 via an online survey, 83% of Americans are listening to as much or more radio since the pandemic began. They’re listening across multiple devices, especially those in the younger demographics. Among devices, time spent listening was up 19% on mobile, 12% on computers, 10% on smart speakers, and 14% in podcasts. Listening at home increased by 26%, while in-car listening fell 32%.

One trend that is not new but has been amplified by this quarantine is internet spending or e-commerce. For many types of “non-essential” goods and services, online shopping is now the only kind of shopping that exists. Despite some easing of the rules, the current social distancing recommendations could last well into next year — or until a coronavirus vaccine is widely available. Businesses that have adjusted to offer online products and delivery options for customers, allowing them to purchase items without putting on a mask and rubber gloves to leave their home, are still making sales and, in some cases, increase their revenue.

It is projected that e-commerce will expand faster than it would have absent the pandemic. Over the past decade, it’s grown from 4% to more than 11% of all retail sales in the U.S. Over the coming decade, thanks to lessons learned from Covid-19 about the importance of having an internet business; online purchases are expected to account for most retail sales.

According to an article in Bloomberg, the next frontier of marketing for businesses and shopping for customers will be Livestream. Livestream shopping offers two things consumers need right now: entertainment and a sense of community. Some stores are adapting.

The Bloomberg article surmises that “People buy things not just because they need or want them, but because it’s fun to hunt around for them — often with friends and family — and talk with store clerks who can explain the merchandise in detail. Talented sales associates have made Nordstrom’s popular for more than a century. Livestreaming can provide something like the same experience when we can’t (or are too reluctant to) go to a store in person.”

One proven way to retain customers is through loyalty programs. Businesses that had loyalty programs in place before the shutdown have been able to continue to promote their products and services through email and text messages. Direct messaging is perhaps the most effective method for reaching customers that you know want and enjoy your products and services. As businesses begin to reopen, loyalty programs can also be an incentive for new customers as they explore options to replace businesses that may not have survived the downturn.

Messaging is important

People are not looking for over-produced sizzle. They want something real, honest, and funny. It is important to be authentic. To accomplish this, brands should:

  • Create engagement through participation and improving consumer experience.
  • Create emotional connections that drive behavior.
  • Provide compelling and relevant content.
  • Move beyond marketing to a business strategy; and
  • Provide purposeful sponsorship, which enriches communities and lives.

According to a Dosomething.org member survey from March 18, 67% of respondents believed brands should keep consumers informed on what they are doing to help and support employees, locations, and supply-chain partners.

Regardless of how your business has operated in the past, one thing is sure; the future will be different.

For some businesses, the forced telecommuting experiment has proved to be quite an eye-opener. According to a Gartner survey of 317 CFOs, 74% indicated that they would move at least 5% of their previously on-site workforce to permanently remote positions Post-COVID-19. Nearly a quarter of respondents said they would move at least 20% of their on-site employees to permanent remote positions.

“This data is an example of the lasting impact the current coronavirus crisis will have on the way companies do business,” said Alexander Bant, practice vice president, research for the Gartner Finance Practice. “CFOs, already under pressure to tightly manage costs, clearly sense an opportunity to realize the cost benefits of a remote workforce.”

Now, as governors across the U.S. begin announcing phased plans for opening their states, businesses are working diligently to manage not only the safety of their workers but also customers. However, the one thing that has not been thoroughly vetted is the ramifications to company health insurance programs and OSHA regulations that don’t have contingencies for social health pandemics. Are there new liabilities for businesses if employees and customers begin reporting COVID-19 illnesses, despite any extra precautions that have been put in place?

At BUSINESS FINANCE CORPORATION (BFC), we work with our clients to find the best options for managing their cash flow by staying abreast of the latest business trends that affect their financial bottom line. To learn more about BFC’s services, go to https://bfc.vegas/.